Thirdstory, from left: Ben Lusher, Richard Saunders and Elliott Skinner

Thirdstory, from left: Ben Lusher, Richard Saunders and Elliott Skinner

Courtesy photo

NEW YORK -- As a trio, they form the band Thirdstory. On this afternoon, Plano native Elliott Skinner, Ben Lusher and Richard Saunders blend in at a trendy coffee shop in the heart of Brooklyn. The air conditioning is weak on this 93-degree New York day, so their sweat-drenched haircuts don't look like they do in the music videos that have helped the trio secure a record deal. Despite the new financial backing, Skinner borrows cash from Saunders to avoid the credit card surcharge on his tempeh sandwich. Frugal habits still prevail for the up-and-coming band that found success the millennial way – on the Internet.

An easy stereotype exists here, in that Thirdstory is three hipster-fashioned, 20-something buddies living in Brooklyn trying to make it big in the music scene. It seems like the abstract for an HBO series.

When asked if they can acknowledge how surreal their current scenario is, the question doesn't seem to take. I don't blame them. The blur of quick success can sometimes be missed when in the thick of it.

Thirdstory's transition into an on-the-verge music act in development has been as smooth as the harmonies the group produces.  Since their formation last summer, the band's takeoff has been swift (thanks to YouTube views) and their musical chemistry, both off and on the stage, is obvious.

Saunders, who's from Connecticut, and Lusher, from Bermuda, met years ago during a music program in Miami. When Skinner – alumnus of Dallas' Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts – met them a little more than a year ago at a New York event, the three became friends and Thirdstory was born. 

"We all just got in a room together and had to sing something," Lusher said. "We thought, 'Damn, this is good!' "

The group is known on YouTube for their creative arrangements in covering contemporary hit songs. So far, Sam Smith's "I'm Not the Only One," Taylor Swift's "Style," Ariana Grande's "One Last Time" and Tove Lo's "Talking Body" have been re-crooned by Thirdstory.

It was their first YouTube release covering "I'm Not the Only One" that helped ignite the group's creative journey (that will eventually culminate in an original album). After Thirdstory posted their first song  (now over 1.3 million views), Sam Smith's pianist reached out.

"Basically, Smith's people said they really liked what we did and they wanted to work with us," Saunders said.

Thirdstory jumped on the opportunity. Already offered a development deal by a subsidiary of Universal records, the group had the chance to travel to Europe this April to hone their skills with Smith's people and other producers.

Since that meeting, Thirdstory has hit the ground running. A trip to Los Angeles for the same reasons, small shows across the country, photo shoots, songwriting and constant rehearsal has filled the group's time over the past six months.

Granted the financial latitude through their record label to work exclusively as musicians, Thirdstory's current focus is developing their own work.

"The challenge is transitioning from a YouTube act to legitimate artists with our own sound," Skinner said.

Thirdstory is aiming for a December release of its yet-to-be-titled debut album. No Texas shows are on their current calendar, but keep an eye out.

Jackson Long is a North Texas-based freelance writer.

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